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I'm currently finishing up a B.S. in mathematics and would like to attend graduate school (a master's degree for starters, with the possibility of a subsequent Ph.D.) with an eye toward entering the field of data science. I'm also particularly interested in machine learning.

What are the graduate degree choices that would get me to where I want to go?

Is there a consensus as to whether a graduate degree in applied mathematics, statistics, or computer science would put me in a better position to enter the field of data science?

Thank you all for the help, this is a big choice for me and any input is very much appreciated. Typically I ask my questions on Mathematics Stack Exchange, but I thought asking here would give me a broader and better rounded perspective.

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    $\begingroup$ Career questions are generally considered off-topic, but maybe you can modify this to ask about specific problems and areas you are interested in. $\endgroup$ – Sean Owen Nov 21 '14 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ @Chuck D. When you say with an eye toward entering the field of data science, do you mean working in an industry position? $\endgroup$ – Robert Smith Nov 22 '14 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ @RobertSmith: Yes, I'm definitely interested in an industry position. $\endgroup$ – user5007 Nov 22 '14 at 22:51
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    $\begingroup$ Then I have a quick recommendation. If you don't have previous experience in statistics, it would be good to pursue a master's degree (assuming you won't be left with a huge debt.) to get the basics. A PhD simply takes too long and it would be more valuable for you to have those years as work experience. Keep in mind that neither a MSc nor a PhD in a traditional department will teach you most of what you need in practice. That's why the people answering your question are suggesting departments geared toward data science. You need to learn quite a bit on your own. $\endgroup$ – Robert Smith Nov 23 '14 at 1:11
  • $\begingroup$ @SeanOwen, I've been thinking about how to reword this but I'm at a loss as to how to bring this back on-topic. I'm not to the point where I'm ready to ask about specific schools - I'm just looking for a broader perspective as to whether there is a general consensus concerning education credentials in the field. Do you have any further suggestions that could help me out? Thanks. $\endgroup$ – user5007 Nov 23 '14 at 22:35
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Why not do an MSc in ooh... Data Science?

I wrote a quick review of UK Data Science Masters' offerings recently. That should help you get an idea what is offered. Mostly they are mashups of stats and computing, but there are specialisms (health, finance for example) that might interest you.

Note that list was compiled for courses that have already started, so some of those courses might not be available for starting next October, or have different syllabus contents.

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Every field has their own variation of "data science," so I would suggest choosing a subject that interest you and going from there.

I can't offer what the go to subject is for your particular interest. A graduate degree that would "get you where you want to go" is quite a personal understanding, so I can' answer that. But what I will say is, from my own personal experience, when I graduated with my undergrad degree in economics, I was really interested in data science, and economics allowed me to use data science in a field I'm really interested in. So I applied to Ph.D programs to further my knowledge and am using data science extensively in many different forms of analysis.

My suggestion is to apply to graduate degrees that have interesting subject matter to you and will allow you to use data science as understanding. You would fit well in an economics degree because of your background :)

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UCL - CSML. It covers computer science, machine learning and statistics.

Firstly, reputation of the university. Secondly, you are from Mathematics background, hence I assume you don't have sufficient programming knowledge. Thirdly, Statistics and Machine Learning dominates this field. Employers would prefer these 2 before Mathematics.

In short, this course provides everything that you are lacking. HOWEVER, they don't teach programming languages like Java, C++,... but Matlab, R, and Mathematica. Hence, it would be essential if you pick up the former from somewhere.

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  • $\begingroup$ This is fairly terse. Maybe you can expand on why you think this is a good choice? $\endgroup$ – Sean Owen Nov 21 '14 at 10:40
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    $\begingroup$ ok I have made edits, hope this helps. $\endgroup$ – Vincent Benedict Victor Nov 21 '14 at 10:51
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This is a tricky question, because it's easy and difficult at the same time. Easy, because there is a lot of resources that potentially can help you make a decision on the topic. Difficult, because the situation is very different for a particular person (not to mention that their interest might change at any time), which makes extremely difficult for other people to give you a good advice and for you to make the right decision.

As for data science career options, you can certainly consider a degree path (MS or MS + PhD), but you need to be aware of other options. For a comprehensive resource, dedicated to data science and related degree programs (both traditional and online), please visit this page: http://www.kdnuggets.com/education/index.html. A comprehensive review of all these offerings is IMHO an enormous task and is far beyond an answer here on Stack Exchange or, even, a lengthy blog post.

However, nowadays one is not limited to traditional educational options and I think it's important to be aware of other educational options. One of the other options include certifications (linked at the above-mentioned page, but, in my opinion, the only certification worth considering is the Certified Analytics Professional as a solid and vendor-neutral certification from a reputable INFORMS). Another option is recently booming data science intensive educational offerings, from short-term (and often too commercial, to put it lightly) bootcamps to more solid offerings, including free, but competitive, ones, such as Insight Data Science Fellows Program, where one needs to be a PhD to apply, or its sister program Insight Data Engineering Fellows Program, which doesn't have such requirement. Finally, there is yet another option: self-study. It partially intersects with the certificate option, if one uses massive open online courses (MOOC) (a review of which deserves a separate comprehensive post), but there are open curricula that might suit one better, such as the Open Source Data Science Masters curriculum, linked in my earlier relevant answer.

P.S. While your question focuses on data science, I think that it may be wise to at least consider another career path, given your math background. I'm talking about operations research field, which is not that far away from data science (and even somewhat intersects with it). While similar, data science is IMHO more statistics-focused, whereas operations research is more math-focused, at least that's how I see it. Despite all the popularity and "gold rush" of data science, operations research career is a solid one, just not as hot. Of course, if you're excited about things like artificial intelligence, machine learning and, especially, deep learning, data science career is the way to go. Whatever you will choose, the good thing is that with your math background it will be easy to change focus, should you decide to. Hope this helps. Good luck!

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Data scientists are in high demand now and appear to be in the near future so looks like you're thinking in the right direction!

A recent McKinsey study predicts there will only be 200,000 data scientists to fill the 490,000 data science jobs by 2018.

While the vast majority of data scientist now have an advanced degree in a quantitative field such as mathematics, computer science or econometrics, it is not necessary. One of my best friends is a leading data scientist at a Fortune 500 company without earning an advanced degree. You can find his personal story here http://bit.ly/2aA6PHk.

I would recommend checking out The Open Source Data Science Masters site at:

http://datasciencemasters.org/

Clare Corthell has done a masterful job of curating a list of free or inexpensive resources to learn the topics of data science, including statistics and data analysis.

Best of luck!

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